Boys basketball: New-look York team finds its niche in successful June

Connor Fitzgerald, Hunter Stepanich key pieces from Dukes’ team that graduated eight seniors

York's Hunter Stepanich (32) puts up a shot at the Riverside-Brookfield Summer Shootout basketball tournament in June 2024.

York basketball is hitting a key transition stage this summer.

After losing the core of last season’s highly successful team that advanced to a Class 4A sectional final, the Dukes wrapped up the final days of a highly successful team camp in June.

Led by senior guard Connor Fitzgerald and junior forward Hunter Stepanich, York played well last month despite almost every player handling an elevated role.

The Dukes posted a 3-1 record in the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout in June.

Fitzgerald said the Dukes have started to find their niche.

“The first part of June was definitely a rocky start because the lack of experience showed,” Fitzgerald said. “Ninety-five percent of our minutes and scoring came from the seniors last year, but as June has progressed a lot of guys have stepped up and began to fit into their own role that will help the team most and this caused us to play more as a team and improve. Obviously, there’s so much more room for improvement, but I’m proud of our guys for stepping up to the challenge and not backing down.”

Stepanich said the Dukes have made significant progress from the first few days in June.

“This June season has gone pretty well for our team, especially just getting to know everybody’s strengths and how to complement each other’s skill set,” Stepanich said. “There’s a huge opportunity for us to step up. So far, I have seen our team definitely take advantage and work through any growing pains that we had as a team earlier this summer. We’re all looking forward to the upcoming season and grinding to get better as a whole.”

York's Danny Libert shoots a jump shot at the Riverside-Brookfield Summer Shootout basketball tournament. June 22, 2024.

York coach Mike Dunn said Fitzgerald and Stepanich will be among key players to watch next season.

“Obviously, we lost eight seniors from a Sweet 16 team,” Dunn said. “For us, we’re trying to figure out what we have because last year’s seniors played so much and our current seniors did not play much last season. Hunter was our sixth man off the bench as a sophomore but is an All-State volleyball player and a really good football player. He’s a rare three-sport athlete. Connor is a shooter who now becomes an important figure.”

The Dukes, who lost a Division I talent in guard AJ Levine, will be more frontcourt oriented in the 2024-25 season, Dunn said.

”We have some big kids who are skilled and capable of scoring around the basket,” Dunn said. “We have been more guard heavy in the past, but now are post heavy. We’re trying to figure it out. We’re a work in progress and will continue to work and improve.”

The 5-foot-10 Fitzgerald said he’s excited for the challenge of leading the backcourt next season.

“I’ve been working on being a better ballhandler and shooter because our primary ballhandlers and shooters last year were seniors,” Fitzgerald said. “I learned a lot last year, especially how to be true leader.”

The 6-7 Stepanich said he’s excited about becoming a regular contributor for the Dukes after coming off the bench last season.

”Since March, I’ve focused on getting in the weight room to become stronger, faster and more explosive as well as basic fundamentals, such as finishing around the rim and my post-up game,” he said.

Bob Narang

Bob Narang is a contributing sports reporter to Shaw Local News Network